Mattel Axes Kid-Friendly Aristotle AI Smart Speaker Due To Privacy Concerns
Smart assistant devices are very common today with the most popular line of speakers and devices with a voice assistant inside being the Amazon Echo with 70% of the voice enabled speaker market. Mattel, the company who makes many of the toys kids go crazy for, was set to bring its own voice assistant to market in 2018 called Aristotle.
The thing was that this speaker wasn't designed for placement in the kitchen or family room for adults to use; it was marketed as a device that could help take care of children and grow up with them. Mattel announced this week that Aristotle was being cancelled and would not be coming to market.
The decision was made after a petition gathered over 15,000 signatures asking the company to stop the project because babies and other kids should not be encouraged to form a bond with a data-collecting device. Mattel had also received letters from lawmakers asking the company to reconsider the device. Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts and Rep. Joe Barton of Texas wrote in the letter, "This new product has the potential to raise serious privacy concerns as Mattel can build an in-depth profile of children and their family. It appears that never before has a device had the capability to so intimately look into the life of a child."
Aristotle was described as a connected platform that would be able to grow with the child from infancy to adolescence. The device was designed to "comfort, entertain, teach, and assist kids during each developmental state". Mattel was using Amazon Alexa technology inside Aristotle and said that it would be able to do things like sooth crying babies, teach ABCs, teach manners, play games, and help kids with homework. All the things parents normally would do.
Aristotle was was also scheduled to receive ecommerce functions to order baby products as parents needed them. "One of the things that was so striking about this device is that we had so many different concerns. First of all, when you have a device with a camera and a microphone that's going to be in young children’s bedrooms, there is the potential to collect so much data on children that can be used and shared with advertisers and retailers," said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. "Then there are all these child development concerns about replacing essential parenting functions with a device."
Mattel says that the decision to axe Aristotle came from new leadership in the company, specifically new CTO Sven Gerjets. Gerjets "conducted an extensive review of the Aristotle product and decided that it did not fully align with Mattel's new technology strategy."